Let Robert Mueller do his job

Let Robert Mueller do his job
© Getty Images

As a former U.S. senator and state attorney general, I am increasingly concerned with the threat to our basic rule of law from the president of the United States. With new statements that the president is considering firing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE and possibly other senior leaders at the Justice Department, it is time to call a halt.

Simply put, Mueller must be allowed to continue his investigation and see it through to wherever the facts lead. There is no basis for attacking or ending this necessary investigation, which began amid real and deeply concerning evidence of foreign interference in our elections. After FBI director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDershowitz: Trump's lawyers could force Rosenstein to recuse himself from Mueller probe New York Times defends bombshell Rosenstein report Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma MORE was abruptly removed last year, Justice Department leaders wisely selected Mueller to lead the investigation.

I have known him since my 9/11 Commission membership persuaded me that he had the capacity to make truly effective the domestic intelligence and counterterrorism functions of the FBI. Mueller is a highly regarded veteran prosecutor and law enforcement official who has the right experience for this important government role.

His investigation is authorized by law and standing Justice Department rules, and there is no evidence he is abusing his legal authority. To the contrary, federal judges have ratified his efforts and the investigation has already resulted in evidence of wrongdoing. Dozens of serious charges have been brought and numerous guilty pleas obtained.

The United States is built on strong legal pillars meant to ensure that no branch of government or individual may be a law unto itself. No one in this country stands above the law. Moreover, the Justice Department and federal prosecutors have long been governed by special rules and traditions meant to promote their independence and protect their work from political interference.

Mueller and his team must be allowed to continue their work without intimidation or obstruction. Removing Mueller or forcing another official to fire him would not simply be an assault on the nation’s well-established rule of law traditions, it would embroil the presidency and the country in a legal and political controversy gravely damaging to everyone.

Firing Mueller would cross a bright line, even with Republicans who are supportive of the president’s agenda. My former colleague and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate panel reaches tentative deal for Kavanaugh accuser to testify Thursday Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Aide for GOP involved in Kavanaugh nomination resigns after past sexual harassment allegation surfaces MORE (R-Iowa) said it would be “suicide” for the president to continue to talk about firing Mueller. I agree. Other Republican lawmakers have sent similar warnings.

The president must stop his verbal attacks on the Justice Department and its staff. Calling a lawfully obtained and executed warrant a “break in” and “attack on our country” is profoundly wrong and unhealthy for our republic. It is rhetorical acid that can corrode public faith in our irreplaceable institutions and the rule of law that defines our country’s greatness. It must end so we can allow special counsel Robert Mueller continue his work, and let us all continue with ours.

Slade Gorton served as U.S. senator from Washington state for 18 years.